A Federal Europe and the Green Dividend (serendipity part 2)

A Federal Europe and the Green Dividend

(overtaken, mid-post, by current political events!!)

Serendipity Part 2

My last post concluded that building informal coalitions within a fluid European Union was potentially significant for achieving great advances in combating Climate Change, both as far as Europe itself is concerned, but also in terms of the influence a strong Europe has on World-scale agreements.

As I write, it is, of course, not at all clear whether the UK will still be part of the European Union in a couple of years` time, so as an exercise in crystal ball-gazing, I thought it might be appropriate to set out some alternative scenarios and try to decipher whether there is a common pathway for “saving the world” whatever happens to the political and/or the institutional framework(s) within which we have to work.

“A week is a long time in politics!” But it is a lot less than a week (barely more than a day!) since I wrote the first words of the last post and writing these words now but even in that short time the framework has shifted a little – maybe even more than a little! The infamous erstwhile director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, eventually ran out of rope with President Trump, and has eventually been forced to resign, having racked up one or two too many misdemeanours in his short tenure at the EPA.

He had apparently accepted a low rent condo from a lobbyist, accepted many thousands of dollars` worth of free trips, built a secret telephone booth in his office costing $43,000 and used an EPA employee to run personal errands, including searching for a second hand Trump style mattress as well as paying said employee an over the top pay rise, as a friend of himself and his wife, all of which he denied or obfuscated about. Apparently the thing that decided his fate was shooting his mouth off about an idea he and Trump had been considering, of appointing Pruitt to run the Justice Department in place of another of Trumps “friends” Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Presumably he felt it was a “done deal”, but it clearly caused embarrassment to the difficult-to-embarrass Donald.    So – “You`re Fired!”

We do not know, of course, whether Pruitt`s successor will be any better at protecting the Environment than Pruitt himself (my view is that s/he could hardly be worse, but even that is not especially encouraging). The point is that we, Green Liberal Democrats and Liberal Democrats, need to deal with the world as we find it, whilst always pressing for things to become better. So we need to set our campaigning stall out to cope with whatever alternatives may be likely, even to the point where the prospective frameworks may be substantially different, such as being IN the EU or being OUT OF the EU.

I am thinking in particular of how we should approach campaigning issues for Climate Change and energy use, but there are no doubt commonalities for any and all environmental campaigning. As well as the urgency that climate catastrophe places upon change, the planet is also facing a huge bio-diversity collapse, no doubt partially driven by climate change pressures, but also caused by other environmental degradation factors associated with our sadly Anthropocene age. David Attenborough and many others have pointed towards an extraordinary “Extinction Event” comparable to the loss of the dinosaurs and other megafauna 65 million years ago.

Research in Germany associated with protected areas of their nature reserves over nearly three decades shows a decline in flying insects of around 75% – for details see here… http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/germany-s-insects-are-disappearing

There are many other examples showing declining populations of common birds, common fish and common animals as well as the widely known threats to iconic endangered species, Tigers, Polar Bears,  Blue whales, Hawksbill sea turtles, Orangutans and so on and so on…and, sadly, so on and so on again!

One of the bizarrely counter-intuitive effects of the UK vote to leave the EU has been the urge amongst leading politicians in the remaining 27 countries to seek even closer ties within the EU. That is not to say there are not other forces in several other countries pulling in the direction of a European break-up, usually associated with the hard-right or the alt-right as they are sometimes referred to, but it seems the pro-EU strength is currently out-pacing the splitting force of such groups.

Indeed (and here we get back to my recent serendipitous reading) the prominent Flemish Liberal leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, has just published a book called “Europe`s Last Chance: Why the European States Must Form a More Perfect Union” which was reviewed, in the Journal of Liberal History, by Sir Graham Watson a former UK Liberal Democrat MEP and also former leader of the ALDE Group.

According to Watson, Guy Verhofstadt is “…a federalist at all costs…” and “A fundamental argument of the book is that Europeans are at risk of being rapidly overtaken by others. Trapped between a protectionist America and an aggressive China, the EU is failing…  …the EU can be saved by full political union.”

A page or two later in the Journal, in Tim Oliver`s review of Andrew Duff`s book about the Governance of Europe, Oliver makes reference to Duff`s use of Jean-Claude Junker`s comment from 2007:  “We all know what to do. We just don`t know how to get re-elected after we`ve done it”.

There is clearly a significant tension between what is needed and what is politically possible – so it is not just the UK that has to cope with `realpolitik`, but it may just be the UK that will bear the greatest scars, by ejecting ourselves from the team just as the team is pulling itself tighter into unity. So, what can we do as environmental activists, seeking major changes in the politics of the world as a whole well beyond what politicians of most colours in most countries seem to think is possible anyway.

Week – Long time – Politics!!

Since I put a full stop at the end of the last paragraph, the political tectonic plates have shifted again, with the resignation of David Davis over the weekend and who knows where it will have got to before I have finished writing the next few paragraphs. In a way I have been rather surprised the makeshift Government view has lasted even this long and, although I fundamentally disagree with the man, at least Davis has ended up being true to himself (either that, or he has realised there is simply no way he can deliver what he has promised!?)

It has been painfully obvious to anyone with a grain of common sense that Mrs May has been kicking the can down the road and that she could not carry on doing that indefinitely, pretending she could realistically “square the circle” and meet Brexit hopes as well as keep the EU negotiators talking. There are just too many areas where the fundamental “requirements” of Brexiteers and European negotiators are in discord. For any kind of negotiation to succeed there has to be a pretty significant overlap between the desires of one party and those of the other for an outcome acceptable to both sides.

Oh! Just checked the news and Boris Johnson has resigned as Foreign Secretary too!! Hmm – where will the government be at the end of the day? Looks as though I shall have to cut my philosophising short with regard to long-term environmental issues at least until this dust-up is settled. An interesting quote from an article in the Guardian on Sunday night, before he announced his resignation, of course, referred to someone “close to Boris” who reported that “He thinks that what’s on the table is so flawed we might even be better off staying in.”

Well, at least I can agree with that assessment.

Interesting that the Guardian`s martin Kettle says “Davis resigned on an issue of principle; Johnson resigned on an issue of self-interest.” And an earlier question in the Guardian as Monday`s events are unfolding is to discover whether Johnson`s dithering during the day on Monday raised the issue of whether he was waiting to see if enough letters (48 were needed) from dissatisfied MPs calling for a vote of Confidence in Mrs May – or whether MPs were waiting to see if Bojo was going to resign before they sent their letters to the Chair of the 1922 Committee!?

I have to say it is a great relief to see Boris Johnson leave the office of Foreign Secretary, since he was so often a real embarrassment to the UK. This is severely tempered by the worry that he might end up being Prime Minister – now, that WOULD be embarrassing. As I am writing these words it is approaching 6pm in the UK, although I have only just finished eating lunch… so I shall close and post this section, with the intention of writing more once the febrile UK politics has settled a little. I am not yet sure whether to feel positive at the course of events over the last 24 hours in the hope that it is the beginning of the “end-game” of the Brexit catastrophe, or be concerned that it has to get much worse before it can get better. No doubt time will tell. (serendipity part 3 should follow soon!)

About Keith Melton - Green Lib Dem

Retired English liberal environmentalist living in Nottinghamshire; spent six years in Brazil. Author of Historical Novel - Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. Active member of the Green Liberal Democrats - (pressure group in Liberal Democrats) - was Founding Chair of GLD in 1988
This entry was posted in Boris, Environment & Sustainable Development, History, Politics, Serendipity and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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